24th June 2015
Over 100 barristers and solicitors met this morning to discuss the future of our profession.
Every Chambers in the city, and the vast majority of solicitors were represented. The room was unanimous that the introduction of 8.75% cuts to Solicitor’s fees is untenable.
If the 1st July cut is to be implemented then Solicitors will have sustained a 17.5% cut over a fifteen month period in a profession that has not seen an increase to rates in over twenty years. The government recognise that the profession is fragile and yet continue to take grave risks with the stability of the criminal justice system. The profession gathered today are deeply concerned about the impact of this upon access to justice.
The Bar in Merseyside recognise fully the consequences of the imminent fee cuts and the effect that it will have upon them. The message being delivered by individual firms was that they had made an assessment of the cuts that are to be introduced on the 1st July 2015 and in January 2016 and that they will not undertake work at this rate.
The Bar confirmed that they would not be prepared to undertake any work on any case with a Rep Order on or after Wednesday 1st July in recognition of the damage that these cuts will have upon the Independent Bar.
It was further proposed that the bar would re-introduce the No Returns policy for all existing cases in the Crown Court from Wednesday the 1st July.
We read with interest the speech made yesterday by the Lord Chancellor and would wish to make it known that as an area we are keen to embrace innovation and change that leads to increased efficiencies. We were in fact the pilot area for the Early Guilty Plea Scheme. We make this point to show that we are not resistant to new ideas however we simply cannot understand how the Lord Chancellor envisages reforming a system in which he is cutting beyond all reasonable levels, the fees, of the very people who are essential for delivery and implementation.
We have received messages from a large number of areas indicating that similar meetings are being held around the country. We hope that the Lord Chancellor will re-consider implementing these cuts. If he is in any doubt as to how strongly we feel then we would invite him to meet with us prior to the 1st July 2015.
Zoe Gascoyne Chair of Liverpool Law Society Criminal Practice Committee
Daniel Travers Exchange Chambers